In May 2010, new owners David Gold and David Sullivan on behalf of the board of West Ham United, published what was described as a pledge. David Gold and David Sullivan proudly proclaimed they “would never stop working” for the fans of West Ham United to achieve this pledge, which would be “just the start” of the success we would enjoy under their ownership.
The 10-year anniversary of David Gold and David Sullivan becoming “custodians of this club” is now upon us. Sadly, many of the fans who would have read that pledge 10 years ago have been left questioning its sincerity and the intention of the board to deliver. Point 10 on the pledge was described by Gold and Sullivan as “Arguably the most important of all”. This point is entitled “Listen to supporters”.
- Listen to supporters
Arguably the most important of all is our commitment to listen to what you have to say. We know we are just the custodians of this club. You who follow us every week, whether near or far, are the true owners. Whether talking to you online or in print, or face to face at fan forums, we will be open, transparent and available.
Founded in 2019, the Football Supporters Association Affiliate Member fans group ‘Hammers United’ published the article “Time to Engage” on the 1st of May 2019. Hammers United were born to improve things for ‘all West Ham supporters young and old’ and have since set out on a campaign to open up dialogue with the club, on issues raised by its members. However, Hammers United were informed time and time again that such issues would not be discussed outside of the much-maligned vehicle for engagement created by the club itself; the Official Supporters Board. Given the pledge from David Gold and David Sullivan to be “open, transparent and available”, we were surprised and disappointed to discover the stance of the club over discussing matters of importance among its supporters.
Hammers United have continued to write to the club on a regular basis, despite our initial requests for the opportunity to represent our members through dialogue being refused. During this time, our membership has grown at rapid pace. We believe this clearly demonstrates that West Ham United supporters wish to have their voices heard. In late December 2019 the board of West Ham United agreed to allow their supporter liaison officer to meet with members of the Hammers United committee for the first time. The Hammers United committee welcomed the opportunity to meet with the supporter liaison officer and remain hopeful that this will help pave the way for truly meaningful and transparent dialogue with an independent supporters’ construct, representative of the fan base in the widest sense of the word.
Our membership responded favourably to news of this initial meeting. However, as we write in mid-January, we still await the promised speedy response from the supporter liaison officer regarding our request for continued dialogue and details of a second meeting. Whilst the reaction to the meeting among our membership was favourable concerns have been voiced, as they were with the pledge, over the sincerity of the club to deliver a genuine, transparent restructuring of fan engagement. Our members remain overwhelmingly dissatisfied with fan engagement in the last 10 years and we have received many requests from our members to arrange a protest to allow this dissatisfaction to be voiced. We are a democratic supporter’s group and we must remain true to our members.
To this end, on the 18th of January 2020; a date that will see 10 years of current ownership reached, Hammers United will be facilitating a static protest between 1pm and 2pm in the Olympic Park before the match versus Everton FC.
This protest will act as an opportunity for our membership to stand together to voice their dissatisfaction over the engagement they are afforded with the club and the lack of an opportunity to speak to the club about the way forward following failure to deliver in all areas of the 10-point pledge, shared by David Gold and David Sullivan.
At this point we would like to make it clear that Hammers United will urge its members to continue to offer their full support to the team and the management once the protest has dispersed.
In the interest of clarity, the 10 pledges made to West Ham fans in 2010 which include the pledge to listen to supporters, are as follows;
- Appoint the right manager (a high-calibre manager to deliver results and performances)
- Sign new players (shift the focus from players leaving to players arriving)
- More investment in the Academy (home grown talent will compliment established players)
- Continue to clear the debt (ensure the club survives)
- Freeze season ticket prices for renewal (reward supporters who are the lifeblood of the club)
- Build the status and image of the club (continue to build on our proud history)
- Make it enjoyable to come and watch (bring the fun back)
- Get closer to the community (we take our social responsibility very seriously)
- Go for the Olympic Stadium (financial & football opportunity to take this club to a new level)
- Listen to supporters (you who follow us every week are the true owners)
Many fans have sacrificed a great deal of what they held dear about West Ham United. This sacrifice was made on the understanding that more, a lot more, would be forthcoming than just the survival of the club following the purchase from the current board. Reflecting on the sacrifices they have made and the displacement all together of large numbers of the fanbase, we are duty bound to give these supporters a voice. In time, we hope that this voice will take the form of constructive and transparent dialogue.
Many of those who feel sacrifices have been made and pledges have not been delivered wish, at present, to express their voice by means of protest. Hammers United will facilitate this opportunity to allow for collective, safe and legal expression of opinion from our supporters. We are working in conjunction with LS185, LLDC and the Police and will release the exact location of the static protest in due course.
Hammers United will continue to work with the club to strive to develop a supporters’ construct that allows us both to truly ‘Listen to Supporters’.
Hammers United Committee
West Ham United for Change